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Is it Hell or Heaven You Seek? by Fr. George W. Rutler

Heaven and Hell
Is it Hell or Heaven You Seek?

December 15
, 2013
by Fr. George W. Rutler

There is an intuition in the imaginative part of the human mind that enables us to say that something is “Hellish” or “Heavenly.” These concepts are not simply drawn from literary allusions, because people who read nothing at all can still say that something “looks like Hell” or “is a little bit of Heaven,” and you don’t need a degree in theology to say in an unguarded moment “Go to Hell” or “Good Heavens.” The concepts of the worst state of existence and the best state are ingrained in our very being, but the imaginative sense of this needs the help of reason, which is the other part of the intellect, to understand the deeper characteristics of Heaven and Hell and why they exist. Since they exist beyond the limits of time and space, reason must be assisted in its understanding by what God has revealed about them.

We understand the realities of pleasure and pain, of light and dark, so Our Lord in various ways uses these physical facts to introduce us to the deeper dimensions of Heaven and Hell. In Advent, the last two weeks consider these realities, and the Church rejoices with flowers and music and the brighter rose liturgical color on “Gaudete” Sunday, in thanks that Christ welcomes us to Heaven and wants us to reject Hell. Heaven is perfect life and the state of supreme happiness (Catechism, no. 1024). It is so very much greater than our temporal concepts of happiness and our attempts at pleasure that descriptions of it in feeble human language risk making it sound less happy and pleasurable than what we know, if not downright tedious and undesirable.

Saint Paul endured many Hellish burdens and sufferings, and yet he never forgot the Voice of Christ calling to him on the Damascus road, and that same Voice inspired him with an ineffable joy through all his travels and preaching. He wrote to the Christian believers in Corinth, which was a pretty Hellish place for anyone of moral sensibility and aesthetic delicacy: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). He even says that he knew a man (which quite likely was a modest reference to himself) who had been given the grace before death of experiencing life in “the third Heaven,” which means the actual presence of God (2 Corinthians 12:2). Each of us has the grace of contacting Heaven every day when the Light of the World casts out moral darkness and comes to the altar in the Holy Eucharist. In the Rosary, we have the privilege to add the Fatima prayer: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.”

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2 Responses

  1. […] Is it Hell or Heaven You Seek? by Fr. George W. Rutler (facebookapostles.org) […]

  2. Sometimes life is so deep that all we can say is “Oh, God” and that takes us into his presence. Hence a view of Heaven while on earth.

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